July 23, 2021
4 min. read

Common Medications for Patients on Dialysis


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with kidney disease, you’ve likely been told that inevitably a kidney transplant will be necessary. While waiting for a transplant, dialysis is a means of staying alive until you can successfully find a donor and have surgery.

Nearly 750,000 people a year experience kidney failure in the United States. Kidneys fail due to physical injury or due to long-term illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and a host of other diseases. Kidney disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, most people who have kidney disease aren’t aware that they have it.


What exactly is dialysis? And what are the medications that you may need to take while on dialysis?

What is Dialysis?

If you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), dialysis can be a lifeline. Dialysis is an artificial means of removing water and toxins from the blood in the same way that the kidneys naturally do. This process isn’t a cure for the disease, but it does help take toxins out of your body, keeping your body functioning until you are able to access a transplant operation. There are three types of dialysis that you may undergo to address your particular form of kidney disease. These are:

Hemodialysis This is one of the most common types of dialysis. In this procedure, the doctor will cut a specific part of your body, usually the arm, to gain access to your artery and vein. A patient typically goes to the hospital three times a week for about three to five hours to have their blood cleaned using a machine that acts like an artificial kidney. Waste and extra fluids pass from the blood and the filtered blood is returned to the body. You may experience minor problems such as nausea or abdominal cramps during the procedure.

Peritoneal Dialysis The peritoneal dialysis process is slightly different from hemodialysis. With this technique, a catheter removes waste from your body through the stomach. This form of dialysis can be self-administered or administered through a caregiver at home. If you have the wherewithal, you can do this form of dialysis while at home, work, or traveling. However, this is not an option that is accessible to everyone.

Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT) This form of dialysis is usually for patients who have acute kidney injury. This method is similar to other dialysis methods in that it removes waste from the body through a tube. However, because the patient has an acute form of the disease, they must get treatment non-stop 12-24 hours daily.

Why Patients On Dialysis Need Medication

In addition to getting dialysis treatments, you may have to take kidney medications and vitamins to replenish the nutrients your body loses during treatment. If kidney failure isn’t your only health issue, you will also have to take medication for other ailments such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

dialysis medication

A medicine that helps remove excess phosphorus from the blood is commonly prescribed to patients on dialysis. Anemia is another common problem that can arise for patients undergoing dialysis. When your kidneys aren’t healthy, they cannot make erythropoietin (EPO), which helps create bone marrow and red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Because of this, a doctor will often prescribe medicines that help your body make red blood cells.

patient provider

Common Dialysis Medications and their Side Effects

To stay healthy while going through dialysis treatments, your doctor may prescribe medications for your complications or vitamins for nutrition. The following chart displays the types of drugs your doctor may prescribe, their purpose, and the potential side effects.

Some of these medications may need to be taken several times throughout the day. To ensure that you stay on top of the various medicines you need to take, you can obtain a pillbox to organize your medications. You can also set alarms so that you can remember to take them. There are also medication reminder apps for your smartphone that can help remind you when to take your medications daily.

dialysis side effects

Although kidney disease is the leading cause of death, it doesn’t have to be a terminal diagnosis. Many patients live longer with the help of dialysis treatments and proper medications to treat problems that arise during dialysis procedures. If you or a loved one suffers from kidney failure, a doctor will diagnose it and prescribe the best treatments and medications to help adjust to the disease until you can secure a qualified donor.

References The Kidney Project What is Kidney Failure? Dialysis Hemodialysis

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